Now that the party is pretty much shut down in Vang Vieng after all those tubing accidents, more and more backpackers are turning to Luang Prabang for nightlife and party action in Laos.
After our crazy 36 bus journey from Hanoi to Luang Prabang, I think everyone on the bus was thinking the same thing…”let’s get a beer”.
Luang Prabang is a pretty town and reminds me of Hoi An in Vietnam in that it is super chill and relaxed. It’s one of those places where you simply have to walk down the street and you’ll bump into someone you know, so it wasn’t difficult to find the rest of the bus crew.
Strolling around this sleepy town I would never have guessed that there was much nightlife going on. Aside from a few restaurants lining the Mekong River, I didn’t spot any sign of a wild backpacker party scene. A sign on the door to my room at my guesthouse politely informed me that I must be back before the midnight curfew- I felt like Cinderella.
But Luang Prabang turned out to be one of my favourite places to party in Southeast Asia! I heard about most of these hidden places through word of mouth from friends who have already been there, and now I’m going to pass the information on, so if you want to party in Luang Prabang, this is how to do it right:
Start with a shot of snake whisky
If you head down to the Mekong and walk along the river, you’ll find a man selling Laos snake whisky. This stuff is potent and will knock your socks off, but it definitely starts you off for the night. Take your friends to whiskey man and he will hook you up for 5,000 Kip which is about 60 cents! His sign reads “Open for business. Welcome all travellers you cannot come Laos and not try this snake and cobra win. Try it at least once good for strength. 5000K shot.” Oh, go on then. SOLD. One thing I love about Southeast Asia is their signs and marketing!
Head to Utopia Bar
This place is pretty damn cool. If we hadn’t been told about this place, we would never have found it. Utopia bar is located on the Nam Khan river on the “other side” of the Phousi Temple hill. You can get around the hill from either side of the night market / main street. Check here for directions- It’s down an alleyway and we almost missed the sign to get to it.
Utopia is a funky jungle lounge bar with a beach volleyball court, tropical gardens and restaurant. There are candlelit tables on the deck overlooking the river, or you can sit inside on floor cushions and eat at low Moroccan-style tables. It has everything you need- great atmosphere, good food, varied music and a projector screen displaying movies about travel and adrenaline sports. Our night started out with a game of giant jenga and some food, then escalated into dancing and…well I can’t remember. It seems that everyone meets at this place- from backpackers to expats.
Finish up at the bowling alley
The Luang Prabang bowling alley is the place to be after curfew as it’s the only place serving liquor that I know of. If you walk outside Utopia there are dozens of tuk-tuk drivers muttering “bowling, bowling!”. I can’t remember too much of the ride, but I’m estimating it took about 15-20 minutes to get there. It’s like any bowling alley except here everyone comes to party. You find a lane, order beers and attempt to knock down some pins.
And repeat! So there you have it! The best places for nightlife in Luang Prabang. Southeast Asia is pretty hectic so when you get to Luang Prabang it’s pretty easy to relax and stay there a while. It had just the right level of partying for me- chill but you can have a big night out if you want to.